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Court strikes out suit seeking to declare Saraki, Dogara’s seat vacant

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A SUIT filed by the Legal Defence and Assistance Project (LEDAP), a Civil Society Organisation, seeking the removal of Senate President Bukola Saraki and Speaker Yakubu Dogara from office, has been struck out by the Federal High Court, Abuja.

Justice Okon Abang who presided over the case on Friday ruled that the plaintiffs had no locus standi to file the case in the first place.

LEDAP had approached the court asking it to order Saraki, Dogara, and the other lawmakers who defected from the All Progressives Congress (APC) to other parties in July 2018, to vacate their seats as their defection were not in keeping with the provisions of the constitution.

A total of 37 members of the House of Representatives, including Dogara, had defected from the APC on July 24, 2018. Thirty-two of them joined the PDP, four pitched tents with the African Democratic Congress (ADC) and one refused to announce the party he was joining.

That same day, about 15 Senators also dumped the APC for the PDP.

LEDAP based its suit on the provisions of Section 68 (1) (g) of the 1999 Constitution as amended which provides that a lawmaker would vacate his seat if, “he becomes a member of another political party before the expiration of the period for which that House was elected; provided that his membership of the latter political party is not as a result of a division in the political party of which he was previously a member or of a merger of two or more political parties or factions by one of which he was previously sponsored”.

However, in their response, the defendants asked the court to strike out the suit because LEDAP had no locus standi to file it in the first instance.

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In his ruling on Friday, Justice Abang agreed that the plaintiff has no locus standi to file the suit even though it has merit.

Abang held that a Supreme Court ruling had clearly spelt out the conditions upon which a lawmaker could defect to another political party and that the respondents, in this case, did not meet that requirement.

He, however, added that “the plaintiff that instituted this case is not a political party that sponsored the election of the lawmakers”.

“Also, the plaintiff is not the Independent National Electoral Commission(INEC) that regulates the activities of political parties and monitor elections. The plaintiff is not a registered voter in Nigeria. They are not members of the National Assembly. None of the political party that sponsored the lawmakers is a party in this case. They (the plaintiff), therefore, lack the capacity, legal power to institute the case. The plaintiff’s case is incompetent and thereby struck out,” Abang held.

In the case of Godswill Akpabio, who also defected from the PDP to the APC, Justice Abang said Akpabio acted within his right as he was able to prove that his former party, the PDP, had expelled him from the party before his defection.

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